Table 1: Characteristics of included randomized controlled trials.

First authors,
year,
country
Pain durationSample size,
mean age (year)
Duration weeksFollow-up
weeks
Main outcome
assessments
Experimental group
intervention*
Control group
intervention*
Main conclusion
(mean improvements on pain)

Irnich [17]
2001
Germany
42% >5 years177
52
312Pain VAS (0–100)
Cervical mobility
Massage therapy (MT)
(30 min/5 sessions)
(1) Acupuncture (AC)
(2) Sham laser AC
(30 min/5 sessions)
MT (12.70) < AC (25.30);
MT (12.70) < sham laser AC (19.20)
Cen [18]
2003
USA
NR31
49
66Pain NPQ (0–100)
ROM
Chinese traditional massage
(CTM) (30 min/18 sessions)
(1) Exercise (EX)
(20 min/day)
(2) Standard care (SC)
CTM (19.22) > EX (7.58)
CTM (19.22) > SC (−4.13)
Fryer [19]
2005
Australia
NR37
23
1 dayPPTManual pressure release
(MPR) (1 session)
Sham myofascial release
(SMR) (1 session)
MPR (2.05) > SMR (−0.08)
Meseguer [20]
2006
Spain
NR54
40
1 dayPain VAS (0–10)Classical strain/counterstrain technique (CST)
Modified strain/counterstrain technique (MST) (1 session)
SCCST = MST (2.60)
CST (2.60) > SC (0.03)
Zaproudina [21]
2007
Finland
11.2 years105
42
1 or 248Pain VAS (0–100)
NDI (0–100)
MT
(30 min/5 sessions)
(1) Traditional bone setting (TBS)
(90 min/5 sessions)
(2) Physical therapy (PT)
(45 min/5 sessions)
MT (21.20) < TBS (31.60)
MT (21.20) > PT (17.20)
Blikstad [22]
2008
UK
4–12 weeks45
24
1 dayPain VAS (0–10)
ROM
Myofascial band therapy
(MBT) (1 session)
(1) Activator trigger point therapy (ATPT)
(2) Sham ultrasound (SU)
(1 session)
MBT < ATPT
MBT = SU
Zuo [23]
2008
China
10.4 years60
42
2Pain VAS (0–10)
NDI (0–50)
CTM
(30 min/6 sessions)
Traction (TR)
(20 min/14 sessions)
CTM (5.47) > TR (4.87)
Sherman [24]
2009
USA
7.6 years64
47
1016NDI (0–50)
CNFDS
MT
(10 sessions)
SCNDI: MT (5.50) > SC (2.20)
Jiang [25]
2010
China
60
<60
3Pain VAS (0–10)CTM
(30 min/18 sessions)
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
(2/18 sessions)
CTM (3.40) > TCM (2.16)
Madson [26]
2010
USA
37.9 months23
50
4Pain VAS (0–100)
NDI (0–50)
MT plus moist heat packs and EX
(60 min/8–12 sessions)
Joint mobilization (JM) plus moist heat packs and EX
(60 min/8–12 sessions)
MT (8.50) < JM (24.45)
Liu [27]
2011
China
31.6 months90
42
2Pain VAS (0–10)
NDI (0–50)
ROM
CTM
(30 min/10 sessions)
(1) AC in abdomen
(2) AC in neck and shoulder
(30 min/10 sessions)
CTM (3.97) < AC1 (4.78)
CTM (3.97) < AC2 (5.93)
Zhang [28]
2011
China
1–3 years120
23
10 days24Pain VAS (0–10)CTM
(20 min/10 sessions)
TR
(15 min/10 sessions)
CTM (5.56) > TR (3.85)
Lin [29]
2012
China
7.7 months70
33
4Pain VAS (0–10)
ROM
CTM
(12 sessions)
TCM
(3/28 sessions)
CTM (4.17) > TCM (3.49)
Wang [30]
2012
China
1 week–5 years66
38
2Pain VAS (0–100)CTM
(20 min/6 sessions)
TR
(20 min/6 sessions)
CTM (2.38) > TR (1.39)
Topolska [31]
2012
Poland
50% >11 years60
63
10–15 daysPain VAS (0–10)
NDI (0–50)
ROM
MT plus PT and kinesiotherapy
(NR)
PT and kinesiotherapy
(NR)
MT (1.40) < control (1.63)

VAS: visual analog scale; ROM: range of motion; NR: not reported; NPQ: Northwick park neck pain questionnaire; PPT: pressure pain threshold; NDI: neck disability index; CNFDS: Copenhagen neck functional disability scale.
*Intervention/dose: number of intervention times/number of sessions, number of Chinese herbal medicines every day/number of sessions.